Throughout the United States, residents of long-term care facilities have the right to vote. If going to the polls is difficult, these voters, like others, may request and vote an absentee ballot. Indeed, the most common way for residents of nursing homes or long-term care facilities to vote is through absentee voting.
Sometimes mental or physical limitations may make it difficult for residents of long term care facilities to obtain a ballot or to cast a ballot, and some assistance is required. In response, 32 states have statutes that specifically address voting by residents of nursing homes or long term care facilities.
Mobile polling, also known as supervised absentee voting, is the most common form of assistance, permitted by statute in 23 states. See specific regulations in the table below. These efforts are conducted in the residential facility, by bipartisan team of workers trained by local election officials. Some states determine where mobile polling will be offered based on the number of people who have requested absentee ballots, and others on the number of registered voters in residence.
Generally, local election officials are responsible for mobile voting, but in Michigan and Rhode Island, statutes assign responsibility to the secretary of state and state board of elections, respectively.
- Arkansas (Ark. Code Ann. § 7-5-409 and §20-10-1003)
- California (Ca. Elec. Code § 3021)
- Colorado (CRS § 1-7.5-113)
- Connecticut (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 9-159q. and § 9-19c)
- Florida Fla. Stat. (§101.655 and Fla. Admin. Code Ann. r. 65E-5.602)
- Illinois (10 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/19-12.1 , 5/19-12.2 and 5/19-4)
- Indiana (Ind. Code Ann. § 3-11-10-25 and 3-11-10-36)
- Iowa (Iowa Code Ann. § 53.22)
- Kansas (Kan. Stat. Ann § 25-2812)
- Louisiana (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18:1333)
- Maine (21-A MRSA § 753-B and §754-A)
- Massachusetts (M.G.L. c. 54, § 91B and M.G.L. c. 54, § 98)
- Minnesota (Minn. Stat. Ann. § 203B.11)
- Missouri (V.A.M.S. 115.287)
- Nebraska (Neb. Rev. Stat. §32-944)
- New York (N.Y. Elec. Law § 8-407)
- North Dakota (§16.1-07-04)
- Oklahoma (Okla. Stat. 26 §14-113.2 and 26 §7-123.3)
- Rhode Island (R.I. Gen. Laws § 17-20-14 and R.I. Gen. Laws § 17-20-2)
- South Dakota (SDCL § 12-19-9.1)
- Tennessee Tenn. Code Ann § 2-6-601
- West Virginia (W. Va. § 3-3-4 and § 3-3-5c)
- Wisconsin (Wis. Stat § 6.875)
Who Can Assist a Voter?
Eighteen states have laws specifying who can assist long term care residents to vote. Most commonly, assistance can come from an agent of the voters choosing, but not a representative of a union or the voter’s employer.
- California (Ca. Elec. Code §3021); voter's choice
- Florida (Fla. Stat. §101.655 and Fla. Admin. Code Ann. r. 65E-5.602); voter's choice
- Kansas (Kan. Stat. Ann §25-2812); voter's choice; assistant must sign oath
- Louisiana (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §18:1333); voter's choice, but not staff of the residential facility
- Maine (21-A MRSA § 753-B and §754-A); voter's choice, but not employer, or agent of the voter's employer or union
- Massachusetts (M.G.L. c. 54, § 91B and M.G.L. c. 54, §98); voter's choice, but not employer, or agent of the voter's employer or union
- Minnesota (Minn. Stat. Ann. § 203B.11); an agent with a pre-existing relationship with the voter, but not a candidate
- Mississippi (Miss. Code Ann. § 23-15-625); a family member may request a ballot
- New York (N.Y. Elec. Law § 8-407); voter's choice
- North Carolina (N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 163-226.3); voter's choice, but not owners and employees of the residential facility, elected officials or candidates, and individuals holding office in a political party or organization or who are campaign managers or treasurers for a candidate of a political party.
- North Dakota (16.1-07-04);voter's choice, but not employer, agent of the voter's employer or union, a candidate or a family member of a candidate
- Ohio (Ohio Rev. Code § 3501.29 , §3509.08 and §3721.13); bipartisan election team
- Oklahoma (Okla. Stat. 26 §14-113.2 and 26 §7-123.3); voter's choice, but not employer, or agent of the voter's employer or union
- Rhode Island (R.I. Gen. Laws §17-20-14 and R.I. Gen. Laws § 17-20-2); bipartisan election team
- South Dakota SDCL (§12-19-9.1); representatives of local election officials
- Tennessee (Tenn. Code Ann. §2-6-601); bipartisan election team
- Texas (Tex. Elec. Code § 64.032); voter's choice, but not employer, or agent of the voter's employer or union; the assistant signs an oath
- West Virginia (W. Va. §3-3-4 and § 3-3-5c); voter's choice, but not employer, or agent of the voter's employer or union
- Wisconsin (Wis. Stat §6.875); special voting deputies or a family member
- While residents of long-term care facilities have the right to vote in all states, Arkansas, Ohio and Oregon specify it in statute.
- New Hampshire and Vermont specify that a voter doesn’t lose his or her domicile by staying in a nursing facility.
- New Mexico permits a resident of a nursing facility to request an absentee ballot after the close of the application period for absentee ballots, and this may be delivered by a representative of the voter’s choosing.
- Michigan requires posters to be hung in residential care facilities that explain that ballot coaching (coercing a voter) is illegal, and California makes it a crime to coerce a voter while providing assistance.
- Connecticut, Florida, Maine and Maryland have laws regarding voter registration for long term care residents.
While mental competency is an eligibility requirement for voting, competency must be decided based on the ruling of a judge—not a family member or facility staff member. And, the decision must be made in regard to voting, not general competency. See Vote. It’s Your Right. A Guide to the Voting Rights of People with Mental Disabilities from the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law for more on mental competency.
Administrative Codes Cover More than Statutes
This webpage addresses statutory references only. Instructions and procedures are often detailed in administrative code, whether or not the state has statutes addressing the needs of nursing home residents.
Examples include Idaho’s Administrative Code and Wisconsin’s Absentee Voting in Nursing Homes, Retirement Homes and Adult Care Facilities Manual, published in 2013.